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‘Liz Truss the last straw’ as Cambs Tory councillor jumps ship to Lib Dems

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A county and district councillor quit the Conservative Party blaming Liz Truss “for car crashing the economy: it was the last straw”.

The shock defection of Cllr Douglas Dew to the Liberal Democrats will strengthen the Rainbow Alliance on Cambridgeshire County Council.

It will also weaken the Tory opposition on Huntingdonshire District Council.

Cllr Dew represents the Hemingfords and Fenstanton on the county council and is one of two Conservatives representing Hemingford Grey and Houghton on Huntingdonshire District Council.

In an exclusive interview, Cllr Dew explained that his defection “has more to do with national rather than local issues. I have had real difficulties with the Conservative Party for the last year”.

Cllr Dew, who has been involved in local politics for four decades, said: “When I started out, we had an economy going backwards fast, industrial relations at an all-time and a total mess.

“Forty years later we are exactly where he started.

“Before Christmas, for example, I started looking at the kids’ mortgages when they were paying £1,700 a month – which already stretched them – and suddenly they are paying £2,500 a month.

“With all those increases where the hell are they going to go?”

He said: “For youngsters it is hard and getting harder.”

Cllr Dew said he had always been “left of centre of the Conservative Party but it has moved so far in the other direction, I no longer recognise it”.

He said his disaffection began long before Liz Truss became Prime Minister, and he disagreed on many issues with Boris Johnson.

“But then when we did have a choice of leader, I felt there was no one there that could head us back into the right direction. Of the six there was none I could support.

“It was Liz Truss car crashing the economy that was the last straw.”

Cllr Dew said he felt support for the Conservatives to be draining away – reflected in his canvassing.

“I was out one day canvassing and one woman said to me ‘Doug, I always vote for you but cannot do so any longer.

“Whilst my husband was dying in hospital during Covid, Boris was out partying – it was then I realised the issues were real.”

He added that his own brother-in-law  “a lifelong Conservative” – would no longer support the party.

“These people cannot associate themselves with a party that has done what it has done.”

He said some colleagues had tried to persuade him to remain whilst others felt leaving was the right thing to do.

“There was no real pressure to stay at all,” said Cllr Dew.

He has spoken to the Conservative leaders at both Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire councils and advised them of his decision to leave.

But until today both leaders were unaware of his switch to the Liberal Democrats.

“Both leaders were gracious to me, and sorry to see me go,” he said. “It was a case of ‘if you have to go, we respect your decision’”.

Cllr Dew said the weekend had made him realise he had made the correct move.

“I woke on Sunday feeling excited, happy and relaxed about the decision I had made,” he said.

Cllr Dew said he was happy to serve under Cllr Lucy Nethsingha at the county council – and admitted to having broken ranks once or twice with the Conservatives when whipped on some issues.

“I think the last time when was on a highways issue but since other councillors broke rank on whipping, I don’t think anyone particularly noticed me,” he said.

He said Tory county council leader Steve Count “didn’t know where I was going. At the time I was reserving my options.

“I could have gone independent, but feel I am not. It is very difficult to achieve anything at county or district level as an independent.

“As it happens, of course, the Lib Dems and independents work so closely together I don’t think it would have made any difference.”

Cllr Nethsingha said she was “absolutely delighted” to welcome Cllr Dew on board.

“He has always been a great local champion.

“I am really pleased he will continue to work for the Hemingfords as part of the Lib Dem group.

“Standing up for communities is what we are all about.”

Cllr Dew, an insurance broker, has been a local councillor for 24 years, and lives in Hemingford Grey with his wife Julie for 18 years; the couple have two grown up children who were educated at St Ivo School.

On the district council, he has previously served as the executive councillor for both leisure and planning and transport.

Locally, he also sits on Hemingford Grey parish council.

In 2011, Cllr Dew lost out to Jason Ablewhite to be the new leader of the controlling Conservative group at Huntingdonshire District Council.

Ablewhite replaced Cllr Ian Bates who had stood down.

The leadership contest was a two-way contest between Cllr Ablewhite and Cllr Dew.

ELECTION RESULTS

Huntingdonshire District Council (2022)

Hemingford Grey and Houghton: Conservative HOLD (2 seats)

Douglas Dew – Conservative: 841 (elected)

Michael John Gleadow – Labour: 235

Seona Jane Gunn-Kelly – Green Party: 269

Georgie Hunt – Green Party: 123

David Norman Keane – Conservative: 708 (elected)

Keith Paul Lucas – Liberal Democrats: 578

David John Priestman – Liberal Democrats: 603

The Hemingfords & Fenstanton (2021, county council)

Details

Registered Voters: 7830

Vacancies: 1

Turnout: 40.1%

Ballot Papers Issued: 3140

Votes Cast: 3087

Rejected Votes: 51

Swing

Party Previous Current Change
Conservative 62.18% 56.27% -5.91%
Liberal Democrats 27.64% 22.61% -5.03%
Labour 10.18% 12.21% 2.03%
Green 0% 8.91% 8.91%

Candidates

Seona Gunn-Kelly

Green (275 votes / 8.91%)

Douglas Dew – Elected

Conservative (1737 votes / 56.27%)

Michael Gleadow

Labour (377 votes / 12.21%)

David Priestman

Liberal Democrats (698 votes / 22.61%

 

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